As the buy/sell debate continues to swirl around the NY Mets — winners last night against the Phillies, 8-3, despite the best efforts of Danny Graves, the NY Daily News’ Bill Madden opines on ownership’s optimism.

In the final analysis, it comes down to perspective. Steinbrenner looks at his third-place ballclub, floundering and fluctuating above, below and at .500, some six games back of the Red Sox in the loss column and asks: “Why?” Wilpon looks at his last-place ballclub and then at the four equally flawed teams ahead of it and asks: “Why not?”

Indeed, for all the unsettling aspects about this Mets team – Braden Looper’s psyche, Mike Piazza’s faded skills, the offensive black hole at first base, Jose Reyes’ .287 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot – there is no reason why it shouldn’t be able to remain competitive in the anyone-can-win-it National League East. Of course, it sure would help to have a productive farm system.

Here’s how one scout who has been following the NL East for the past few weeks assessed the division: “The difference between the Mets and the Braves is that the Braves reach down to their system for help and bring up real prospects. The Mets reach down and bring up Gerald Williams, Jose Offerman and Brian Daubach. To me, that says it all about their system and it figures be an even bigger impediment for them when they want to make deals at the end of the month. Otherwise, the Marlins have their problems that may be deeper than we think, the Phillies can’t seem to make the adjustment on the road from their little ballpark and the Nationals are eventually going to realize their lack of depth, especially when they get hit with injuries.”

It’s hard to argue with that. Who’d have imagined the Braves suddenly playing their best baseball of the season at a time when their best player, Chipper Jones, and three of their top four starting pitchers, Tim Hudson, Mike Hampton and John Thomson, are all on the disabled list? The same scout went on to say: “If the Braves somehow wind up winning the division again this year, Bobby Cox should be allowed to report directly to the Hall of Fame without having to wait until he retires.”